Saturday, 13 July 2013

ED and Fasting/Feasting

I have received some suggestions asking me if I could post about how one can handle the balance between ED and religious customs, such as fasting and feasts. Although religions may differ, there are some similiarities in that they fast or abstain from food for certain reasons (for example, to remember an event), and this is often followed by a big feast to celebrate. I will talk about some of these issues and how one with ED can try to balance all of these situations. I pray that this helps!

1) FASTING. In my religion (Orthodoxy), we fast for many reasons: Christmas, Easter, etc. These fasts can be as short as three days to as long as three months! The absolute strictest sense is fasting without food from the morning until around 6 PM, which is when the Liturgy is held and we can take communion. If one cannot fast without any food, milk/dairy products as well as meat are withheld instead. In some cases, fish is allowed (depending on the fast occasion). I know what you are thinking: how does someone with ED do this? Well, it all comes down to the person. God does not desire for us to fast and hurt our bodies in the process; rather, fasting is seen as a way for humans to realize that they need to control their wordly desires. For example, the point of fasting is to realize that as humans, we need to control our habit of sinning. By not eating, we are showing ourselves that if we can stay for a while not eating and feeling hungry, we can most definitely take the steps to stop commiting wrong deeds. However, I want to make a distinct and important point here: GOD LOOKS AT THE HEART. Thus, for someone like me who is recovering, I can make a plan with my Father of Confession (a priest at my church) and decide that instead of fasting, I will (for example) memorize a Psalm every week and take the steps necessary to stop being rude to others. If I can fast without harming my body, I can. But sometimes, fasting for an entire day might be hard for us, especially for someone who is recovering from ED. Keeping in mind that God looks at the heart, we realize that it does no good if someone is fasting all day, yet they are lying, rude, mean, and sinning. What good, then, does fasting do? Nothing. Thus, each to his own. If you can fast, then go for it. If you cannot, do not fear that God will be harsh to you or that you have failed; rather, realize that it is your actions that is most important. "It is not what goes into a man's mouth that harms him, bur rather, what comes out of it" (Matthew 15:11).

2) FEASTING. So, the church has been fasting for a month now, and everyone is ready to eat some good chicken, cheese, milk, and chocolate. These feasts usually occur late in the day (around 11 PM or midnight) because that is when the Liturgy for that occassion ends. Typically, people have no problem eating this late because they just want to taste some of the good food that they have not eaten for a while. But, what is someone with ED to do? Do I eat at this occassion and feel guilty, or not eat enough? Or can I not eat and hope that people will understand? The most important (and best) decision that I made about feasts was this: help people to understand what you are going through, what you will do, and how they can help. For me, this means that I usually do not eat during feasts at around midnight. Why? Pay attention to this, because this is important: IT IS NOT THAT I AM RESTRICTING. Rather, I typically do not feel hungry at times when I need to eat, so, I will definitely not be hungry at midnight since I will have eaten a meal a couple hours ago (bedtime snack). At first, I would be really worried about how I would handle these feasts. Then, after talking to my family (my biggest support system!), I realized that I do not need to worrry about these events. Getting together with my family to celebrate Easter or Christmas is wonderful, but it is NOT ALL ABOUT THE FOOD. If we were getting together at around dinnertime (ex. 6 pm), I would definitely eat because that is when I would need my next meal. But, I could not skip my dinner at 6 pm just so that I can eat a bigger meal at midnight - in recovery, I need to keep my meal times consistent so that my body is assured that it is going to get what it needs. From another perspective, knowing what is going to be served at these celebrations helps me plan my meals. If we re going to eat a mealtime that is consistent with my lifestyle, maybe I can try something there. If not, then I will bring my own food to ensure that I am eating what I need. Maybe this sounds weird to people - to be honest, it does not matter to me. I am at the stage in my life when I really do not worry what others may think or say, because I know that my health and happiness depends on my recovery being solid. I need to do what I need to do to keep myself healthy, strong, and happy. If that means bringing my own food to celebrations or eating at my own mealtimes to ensure I am getting enough, so be it.

These were the major two issues that people asked me to talk about. NOTE: this is the way I handle things. If you have ED and have a team, maybe they will suggest something different to you. Do what works best for YOU, not what others say is best for them. Although recovery from ED is working towards similar goals (ex. to eat wel, to be healthy and happy, to have less ED thoughts), there is not ONE WAY to do things. I learned what works best for me, and this is what I do. I let my loved ones know how I am handling situations so that they can support me and realize that I need to do wht my health depends on. And to be honest, if you have people who love and care for you, they will not care about when you eat your meals and what you eat (as long as you are eating enough and what you need) - they will just be happy and thankful that you are present to celebrate an event with them. Remember, God does not want us to hurt ourselves by fasting or feasting - these are meant to be times of joy when we come together with others and celebrate our faith.

"Don't judge by appearance or height...The Lord doesn't see things the way [humans] see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the HEART." (1 Samuel 16:7).


  1. Marina
    We do not fast as a family even We are christian.
    I like what you are doing re schedduling meal time even when you as a family have a feast or fasting.
    Yes this assures your body that no restriction is anticipated and once your body is assured no anticipated restriction is coming,I was told metabolism returns to normal and you reach the SET POINT.
    I trsut fasting from sins is way better than from foods for every one ,especailly ED victims even if conmpletely recovered


  2. This is a learning point for me too Marina
    I am also at this stage in my life where I do not care about what others say or feel about me.I need to do what is better for my health and my happiness to maintain my recovery solid.

    Marina without the motivation and guidance I got from your blog,no doubt I would be dead today.
    Thanks again


  3. Marina
    Thanks for writing this post now as I have had difficult time during the Holy month of Ramadan.
    Happy Ramadan to every Mozlem person.
    As you know I was born to very committed Mozlem family and all my family fast whe whole month.
    I agree with you God looks at the heart and see the inside ,humans judje and critisize the outside.
    I personally believe that if We fast to worship God ,We should fast from sins not from foods
    I can not get how people dehydrate themselves 17 hours daily and then in just 7 hours ear and drink much more than do in typical non fasting day.
    I agree with you eating frequent meals is healthy and easy on our body and God is for our confort.

    Thank you for talking about this now ,so that Mozlems who are victims of ED make their own decisons and go for what is good and works for them ,not what parents or communities impose on them.
    May God forgive me as I do not fast but I eat 6 small meals,however in total less than my brother eats in 2 meals while fasting .

    Psychology student
    Post Grad

  4. I am Cathloic and I do not fast at all.
    I believe God only wants us to behave well and be reasonable and do not repeat making mistakes (sins) .
    God wants us to be healthy,feel happy and enjoy life while worshipping the All Mighty.
    I agree with you eating small frequent meals even by scheddule working good for me and I feel do not need to fast.


  5. I am Lutheran and I do not fast.
    I see and teach diabetic from all walks of life but the ones that very challenging for me are Moslems during the Holy Month of Ramadan when they fast.
    Most of them want to fast despite all my advice and explaination that is very risky for their health.
    Diabetic ,same as those with ED and those who has some nutritional defeciencies should not abstain from taking a small meal or snack every 2-3 hours to help meet the essential metabolic needs.
    I agree with you Marina God and religion not aiming to startve or torture people but to have people be honest and sincere .We need to help them live healthy and behave maturely and look at what is healthy for your body.
    I believe eating small frequent meals according to Canadian Food guide help your brain think sharply and help your body be strong and immune to diseases and does not increase your weight at all.
    Once again BMI is just a tool to guide us when We calculate rsik but 1 pound up a can switch you from being 24.9(normal weight) to 25Kg/sq M (overweight)or from BMI18.5(normal weight )to 18.4 underweight.This does not make sense .I do not care about this .I teach people to be healthy in all sizes and shapes of their bodies.
    Please every body live healthy and eat well and be happy and have fun.

    I am on vacction 2 weeks

    See Ya

    C.J. RN

  6. I am Moslem and I do not fast since I realized that fasting and then feasting is like binge and burgee .
    I believe moderation is the best


  7. Marina
    As you know I am from Iraq and struggled long years of depression.
    I used to fast Ramadan by the book and neither myself nor any of my family dared to eat or drink any thing for 16 hours daily and I used to hide and eat because I could not do this .I remembered I got caught several times and my dad used to spank me and verbally abusing me with very harsh derogatory language .
    Now I am in Canada and I completely recovered from depression and I do not like the way Ramadan fast(this my personal opinion with all respect to Holy Month and all my Moslem people) and I believe in healthy eating every 3-4 hours in moderation.
    My family eating in Ramadan is at least 3 times more than if not Ramadan and my family expense in Ramadan alone equal to 6 month expense.
    I believe fasting as in Ramadan is a torture to our health and is a kind of disordered eating


  8. I came to know only recently about how much damage hypoglycemia cause on the brain not only functional wise but also anatomically .
    My advise to every body especially diabetic and ED victims to eat regularly to protect their brain
    I now believe that when I was delaying my breakfast ,my thinking was behind .
    I did not know that I was harming my brain
    Marina ,please correct me if I am wrong

    Political science student

  9. Have you ever had somebody tell you how they ‘missed’ breakfast or they’ve ‘hardly’ eaten all day…and then act all proud about it? It really winds me up. How even non-ed sufferers nowadays can feel satisfaction by eating as little as possible-before then announcing this ‘achievement’ in public.

    It’s basically like putting not enough gas into your car, driving off and then expecting a round of applause. Well done you.

    Not eating isn’t an accomplishment.


  10. My eating disorder is really grabbing ahold of me lately. I mean, it usually is, but at the moment it’s STRONG. Probably because of the abruptness of my departure from treatment and therapy and what have you, and my move…I’m trying to gain some sort of control I think. The sad thing is that I feel out of control still more. I think “I just want to be thin." but really my rational mind scoffs at that. I know better. I’m not ignorantly using symptoms, not knowing that I could develop an ED. No. It’s an addiction. An addiction that sours my mind, sickens my stomach, makes me hide in shame. It’s not just about being thin. Not really.

    Good thing, I guess. Because I’m NOT.



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